Looking Through a Glass Union

At first I was quite heartened to hear that a new website had been launched to put the case for the Union. According to the site: “Currently there is no coherent Scottish voice championing a preservation of the United Kingdom. There seems to be no organised campaign in Scotland against the SNP campaign for separatism.” Though I’d quibble with their phrasing, there’s no gainsaying their point. However, examining their arguments does not move us on very far, especially their main assertion that: The Union serves all four parts of the United Kingdom well and enables us to achieve much more together than would be the case if we were separate nations.

Their points below are given under four heads in italics and our responses follow:

History

  • The Union has been one of the greatest political success stories of modern European history. It has helped to provide us with a degree of political stability in the United Kingdom that is virtually unparalleled anywhere else in Europe over the past 300 years.
  • No quibbles with that. But who says that’s the right choice for the next 300?
  • Thanks to the Union the English language is possibly the greatest export that Britain has ever produced.
  • No quibbles either. But will independent Scots be banned from using English?
  • In the 18th century, the Union helped create the sense of possibility that inspired the Scottish Enlightenment. In the 19th century, the Union brought unparalleled prosperity to both our countries in what was Europe’s first common market between Scotland and England. In the 20th century, we confronted side by side totalitarian regimes that were the scourge of mainland Europe.
  • No quibbles again. But, starting with the Darien disaster, through the Clearances, right up to North Sea Oil and EU Fisheries, England has proved a selfish partner, failing to distinguish between itself and Britain; the worst exponents were Thatcher/Blair which is why we’re having this debate.

Economy

  • The Union allows Scotland to be part of a larger, more powerful economy and within the Union, Scotland enjoys the four freedoms – movement of goods, services, people and capital.
  • Same applies (far more powerfully) to the EU, in which Scots need a direct say.
  • By remaining part of the Union, Britain has the fourth largest economy in the world. Edinburgh’s role as a major financial centre is built on the expertise of its workforce and underpinned by its position in the UK.
  • EU is the 2nd economy in the world. And is Singapore restricted as a financial centre by being a country the size of Edinburgh? No—this is the 21st century.
  • Being in the Union allows us to pool resources and risk. The fact that Scotland receives more from the UK Treasury than she contributes does allow the disproportionate remoteness of some regions and the disproportionate economic disadvantages of others to be catered for.
  • Hoary old chestnut, this one! North Sea Oil, Crown Estates, Whisky duty & other invisibles Westminster chooses not attribute to Scotland means it actually makes a net contribution (7.8% of UK GDP from a population of 7.6%)
  • Most of the Scottish budget comes from a block grant from the UK Parliament, paid for out of taxes collected from across the UK.
  • Yes: so do English schools, transport, social work, libraries, etc. Your point?
  • Being part of the Union and the current funding setup means that public services are less exposed to sudden fluctuations in revenue with a tax base as wide as the UK’s
  • Iffy point. You mean, like Irn Broon’s raid on Scottish pension funds or Darling’s 20% VAT boost? Give us a chance to steer an economy relevant to Scotland and not to London and we’ll take that ‘disadvantage’.
  • Social security payments are available and are paid on the same basis to people across the country, according to their needs. This principle of fairness should not be undermined.
  • Pardon us but, after Thatcher, we Scots take no lessons from England on what is or is not ‘fair’.
  • Being part of the UK allows the costs of say bank rescue plans to be more easily absorbed and spread out across a far larger tax base and therefore makes the costs less acute on the individual.
  • That would be a good point, other than, had the 2008 crisis hit an independent Scotland: a) we would have had an FSA like Norway’s (i.e. one not asleep on the job); b) instead of squandering oil revenues on supercarriers and nuclear subs, we would have started to amass an oil fund like Norway’s to help cushion the blow; c) we would not have been alone—NatWest and Halifax are English banks—England would have had to share the bailout or watch its banks go bust; d) are we sure glueing HBOS to Lloyds was a good idea?

Political

  • Being part of the UK, Scotland is able to wield meaningful influence for good around the world. Scotland is in the privileged position of being amongst the five permanent members of the Security Council, is in the G8 group of the most prosperous nations, is one of the three big nations at the centre of the EU and leads the Commonwealth. Scotland’s interests are therefore represented in the most influential and important international organisations in the world by virtue of the Union.
  • This is utter crap: England’s interests are represented—when it comes to any conflict (e.g. selling fishing rights to the Spanish or redrawing North Sea oil boundaries) Scotland’s interests go down the Suwanee.
  • It goes without saying that Scotland is physically safer with the pooled resources of the UK military and counter-terrorist services at our disposal.
  • No: it goes with saying that we are in more danger staying part of a third-rate power with delusions of grandeur: the Glasgow airport car bomb would not have happened had Scotland not been dragged into the Iraq War
  • Over the centuries, Scots have made an outstanding contribution to the UK’s military successes. Scotland punches above its weight in Britain’s Armed Forces and Britain punches above its weight in the world because of the expertise and bravery of those Armed Forces.
  • If “punches above its weight” means Scotland has had more sons killed or put in harm’s way than England (and continues to with 42 Cdo & 4th Bn RRS in Afghanistan), then yes. But current UK military policy is both delusional and dangerous—underfunded, underequipped and overstretched. It’s time Scotland had modest Norway-scale forces, playing a normal peacekeeping role. Who’s going to invade Berwick or Barra: the Russians? The Faroese?

Social Benefits

  • The Union allows individual Scots to continue to play a major part in the social fabric of the UK.
  • And the Irish don’t/can’t?
  • Many of us will have family in other parts of the UK.
  • …and Canada and Australia and South Africa and Eire and the States and Spain and France and… There will be no border posts at Berwick (as there are at Dover but not in the Schengen countries)
  • Sports stars like the Scottish Olympic Gold Medallist cyclist Chris Hoy trained in England and competed at international level for Britain.
  • Oh, puh-lease; he still could. That’s a reason to deny 5m people freedom??
  • A common bond we have is the Royal Family.
  • Which would remain as long as a majority of Scots felt that way: c.f. Canada
  • Within the Union there are aspects of Scotland’s national life which are different from the rest of the UK. The distinctive Scottish legal system and the Scottish education system are good examples.
  • Agreed: we just want the other aspects that would make us a normal country.

About davidsberry

Local councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Stood for the Scottish Parliament 2011; lost by 151 votes.
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